Evaluating the Effect of Chemical Digestion Treatments on Polystyrene Microplastics: Recommended Updates to Chemical Digestion Protocols

Gulizia, Alexandra M., Brodie, Eve, Daumuller, Renee, Bloom, Sarah B., Corbett, Tayla, Santana, Marina M.F., Motti, Cherie A., and Vamvounis, George (2022) Evaluating the Effect of Chemical Digestion Treatments on Polystyrene Microplastics: Recommended Updates to Chemical Digestion Protocols. Macromolecular Chemistry and Physics, 223. 2100485.

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Establishing the toxicity and exposure consequences of microplastics (MPs) on marine organisms relies on the nondestructive isolation of plastics from biological matrices. MPs are commonly extracted from these matrices by chemical digestion using alkali (e.g., potassium hydroxide (KOH) and sodium hydroxide (NaOH)), oxidative (e.g., hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)) and/or acidic (e.g., nitric acid (HNO3)) reagents. Although these digestion conditions can be highly effective for MP extraction, they can also react with the plastics. This can attribute an inaccurate representation of plastic contamination by altering MP visual characteristics (size, shape, color), thereby impeding identification and potentially returning erroneous numbers of ingested particles. In this study, the degradative impacts are assessed of the routinely applied digestion reagents (i) KOH, (ii) NaOH, (iii) H2O2, and (iv)HNO3 on polystyrene (PS) based MPs sized between 200 μm and 5 mm. Degradation of the PS MPs is evaluated using FT-IR, gel permeation chromatography, NMR, photoluminescence spectroscopy, and microscopy. These studies reveal HNO3 to be the most destructive for PS MPs, while the alkali and oxidative reagents result in negligible changes in plastic properties. These results are recommended to be used as a guideline to update current protocols to ensure the nondestructive treatment of MPs.

Item ID: 73272
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1521-3935
Keywords: marine plastics, microplastics, plastic degradation, plastic digestion, polymer analyses
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Copyright Information: © 2022 The Authors. Macromolecular Chemistry and Physics published by Wiley-VCH GmbH. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Research Data: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/action/downloadSupplement?doi=10.1002%2Fmacp.202100485&file=macp202100485-sup-0001-SuppMat.pdf
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2022 23:20
FoR Codes: 34 CHEMICAL SCIENCES > 3403 Macromolecular and materials chemistry > 340399 Macromolecular and materials chemistry not elsewhere classified @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3107 Microbiology > 310799 Microbiology not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1899 Other environmental management > 189999 Other environmental management not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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